Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish ended months of speculation Thursday by saying he intends to make a move to Major League Baseball.
The 25-year-old right-hander, considered the best pitcher in the Japanese professional leagues, wrote on his blog that he had decided to use the posting system, which allows MLB teams to bid for the negotiating rights to Japanese players who have yet to become free agents.
"I have decided to use the posting system," he said. "I wanted to tell my fans directly, so that is why I am posting this on my blog."
Darvish, the son of an Iranian father and a Japanese mother, went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA this season for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. He had 276 strikeouts to lead the Pacific League.
The Fighters had given him approval to negotiate with a major league club through the posting system. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Ichiro Suzuki went to the major leagues under the system.
"I owe a lot of thanks to my team," Darvish said, adding he would provide more details at a yet-to-be-scheduled news conference.
Darvish pitched in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was a member of the Japanese national team that won the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
The six-foot-five Darvish has superb control and throws seven effective pitches, including a two-seam fastball introduced during the 2010 season. It's expected he would make a top-of-the-rotation major league starter.
"Darvish is the No. 1 pitcher in Japan, but we want him to become the ace of the world," Nippon Ham team representative Toshimasa Shimada said.
Darvish turned pro in 2005 at the age of 18. His pro career got off to a rocky start when he was caught smoking in a pachinko parlour on an off day during his first spring training, despite not being old enough to legally smoke nor to gamble at the time.
After going 5-5 with a 3.53 ERA in his rookie season with the Fighters, Darvish had a breakout year in 2006, going 12-5 with a 2.89 ERA and 115 strikeouts.
In 2007, Darvish won the Eiji Sawamura Award presented to the top pitcher in Japanese professional baseball after posting a 15-5 record with a 1.82 ERA and a league-leading 210 strikeouts.
Once posted by the Fighters, MLB clubs can submit sealed bids for the right to negotiate with Darvish. If the Fighters accept the highest bid, the MLB club that placed that bid will then have 30 days to finalize a contract with the player. If no deal is reached, Darvish returns to the Fighters for another season and the Fighters must return the posting fee to the MLB club.
In 2006, former Seibu Lions pitcher Matsuzaka drew a $51.1-million US posting fee from the Boston Red Sox, which then signed him to a six-year, $52-million contract, taking the total package to more than $100 million.
The New York Yankees, one of several MLB teams said to be interested in Darvish, won the negotiating rights to shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima of the Lions on Wednesday. The posting fee for the 29-year-old is $2.5 million.